Desexualized Dress Code
I love dresses.
In my senior year of high school, I started wearing skirts and dresses and in a few years they had taken over my wardrobe. My dad has asked me in the past if this change was prompted by all the weight I gained once I became depressed. Perhaps; skirts are easier to fit in to. But the skirts and dresses I wear are also cute, and that has some of its own advantages.
When I first came to school in a cute skirt, one of my classmates was convinced I must have some crush I was trying to impress (not true). More recently a waiter asked me if I was on a date, seeing the dresses both me and my roommate were wearing (also not true). But other than those isolated incidents, my clothing seems to give me a young, cute, and perhaps desexualized look*. I think I may have also had on some level a desire to seem nonthreatening so people would go easier on me.
After converting to Islam, my clothes have been fairly easy to make hijab-compliant. Modest and feminine, they seem to have the approval of other Muslim women. When I go out in hijab, I do feel more comfortable that I don’t have to worry about my hair, or that I might end up flashing people on a windy day. But, on the other hand, hijab seems to diminish the “young” and “cute” expressions that I get from the very same pieces of clothing. It is true, at least for me, that I have a harder time telling people’s ages when they’re in hijab, and that seems to be true for at least some other people— I, age 25, was once asked at a checkout if I would be using the senior discount, and I thought I must be hearing things.
I am not a regular hijabi, but hijab made me consider how I express myself in clothing. I’ve been in college for a long time now, inching along at whatever pace my mental health will allow. By now it feels like an eternal limbo, keeping me in one stage of life that doesn’t have much growth left to offer me anymore. Here, cuteness is still a place of safety. But it may be the uppermost life stage in which I can still get away with it, if I’m not too old already. I resent this cuteness sometimes, like I’m trivializing myself.
I thought about this last year, and decided it was time for a change. Decided, but all I did was stop wearing all my cutesy headbands and flower hair clips. To make a change, I suppose, I really need something to change to. And for now I’m not sure what that might be.
*People still occasionally ask me if I’m in high school. And while high schoolers are stereotypically riding on a sea of raging hormones, perhaps I might be perceived as having some sort of “good girl” look. I can’t say for sure what people might think.